Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Resort

After a challenging day on Monday when only half of the teachers were present, I decided to spend my time after school at the resort in my village.  They charge $10 tala for the use of their beautiful  pool and beach.

I’ve mostly avoided the resort until now.  When I first came to the village people assumed that since I’m a palagi and that’s where palagis stay, that that was where I was living.  Let me just say that on my monthly stipend from Peace Corps I would not be able to stay there one full night.

Because we’re expected to live like everyone else in the village and the Samoans can’t afford to hang out at the pool at the resort, I haven’t either. 

But I figure I’ve been here long enough.  Everyone knows I live in a fale like theirs.  They know I don’t have hot water.  They see me on the bus all the time.  They see me buying the same food they do at the market.  But there is no question that I will always be the palagi.  Different in so many ways.

Anyway after rationalizing it to myself, I headed to the resort.  I was the only one there.  I swam.  I cooled off.  It was delightful.  I pretended I was floating in my pool in Florida.  After ten minutes alone in the pool a guy arrived at the pool bar.  I assured him I didn’t want a drink and he could leave.  He did not.  It would be rude to leave someone alone.  Instead, his buddies, also resort employees, arrived.  For awhile, they watched me swim.  It is not relaxing to have a group of young men watch me swim. Then they cranked up the tunes.  Then they started singing along.  By that time, I’d been in the water for 30 minutes or so and got out to read and relax. 

The young women on staff seemed to notice the young guys at the pool and started sauntering past.  They yelled back and forth, over the music.  There was a lot of singing, laughing and yelling.  It was just like being at home except for the pool.

After an hour or so, during which I’d taken another dip, and watched the Head of State of Samoa and his entourage be escorted to their room, some other guests arrived at the pool.  The guys disappeared.  The yelling stopped and the music was turned down.  Hmmm.  I guess it is integration when you’re treated as a local even after paying to be a guest.

The folks who’d arrived were from Australia and had worked in Upolu a few years before.  We had a nice conversation.  They went off to their room and I decided to get a pizza from the resort restaurant to take home.  That was another first.

As I waited for the pizza it started to get dark.  I tried to pay before the pizza was done, to speed the process.  It is considered inappropriate for me to be out after dark and I knew my family would be concerned.  Unfortunately I didn’t account for Samoan time.  The pizza was ready but even though I’d started the payment process 15 minutes before, they didn’t have change.  The bill was $27.  I gave them $40.  To get the $13 in change they had to send someone to the owner’s house at the back of the compound.  It’s a long walk and no one was in a hurry.  Eventually, near dark, they came back and realized they hadn’t gotten the correct change.  They said they’d try again.

I explained that I needed to get home because it was getting too dark and my family would be worried.  I said I’d come back for my change the next day.  I walked home alone down the main road by street light (except the sections where they’re broken).  I frequently heard people calling my name and yelling greetings from their houses near the road or from the beach.  Talk about the walk of shame.  There I was, pizza box in hand, in the dark. 

I got home with no problem.  It was 7 p.m. and completely dark.  I apologized to my family for worrying them by coming home so late.  It really was my fault.  My family is responsible for keeping me safe.  I’d left in broad daylight, saying I was going swimming.  I arrived after dark with pool hair and a pizza.  They were right to be upset with me.  I promised it would never happen again. 

At that point I figured I had a pizza and nothing to lose.   I went to my family’s store and asked to buy a beer.  They were shocked.  I ate pizza, drank a beer and had a quiet evening.  Freedom.

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